HAVANA TIMES — The Rolling Stones performed for the first time in Havana, Cuba on Friday night before hundreds of thousands of fans. The gig with the veteran performers of the legendary rock band added to the accelerated opening of the island to the outside world.
“I think the times are finally changing,” said Mick Jagger, lead singer of the legendary British band, on a monumental stage set up at the grounds of Havana’s Sports City, a few kilometers from the Palace of the Revolution, reported dpa news.
“We know that years ago it was hard to listen to our music here in Cuba. But here we are,” said the leader of the “satanic majesties, who spoke several words in Spanish to the hundreds of thousands of people gathered on the sports field.
The spectacular concert would have been unthinkable in the early decades of the Cuban Revolution, when Fidel Castro rejected any protest or counter-culture music like rock as representatives of capitalist decadence. Bands like The Beatles or the Stones themselves were banned in the 60’s on Cuban radio and television.
The new Cuba of market reforms under Raul Castro sees rock music more kindly, as long as they are not local musicians who criticize the system or its leaders.
The Stones started playing three years after the revolution in Cuba. Despite the age, Jagger is 72, the band maintains an impressive freshness, not only by the lead singer’s agility to jump around the stage.
“What a cool audience,” said Jagg4er, who promised “an unforgettable evening” for Cubans.
People began to arrive many hours before the historic event. The concert was free, something unthinkable in other countries where the Stones are presented. However, some attendees paid up to US $15 to sit on the terraces or balconies of homes neighboring the field.
The Stones played classics from their repertoire such as “Sympathy for the Devil”, “Start Me Up”, “Brown Sugar” or “Gimme Shelter,” and closed the impressive concert more than two hours after it started with their most famous song, “Satisfaction”.
“Until now I only know them from television,” explained Lena Madrigal on the lawn of the Sports City during the concert. The 22-year-old Havana resident had painted the name of the Stones on his thigh to go to the stadium six hours before it opened, even though she wasn’t a big fan of the British band. “If I cannot go see them outside the county, at least I can come here,” she said.
Jorge Ravelo, however, saw the concert as a landmark event. This “means the beginning of something,” said the 42-year-old, who came to the concert with a black T-shirt printed with the face of US President Barack Obama.
Ravelo also recalled the famous phrase of Pope John Paul II, who visited Cuba the country in 1999. “This means that Cuba is opening up to the world and, most importantly, that the world is opening up to Cuba,” Ravelo paraphrased the pope.
In addition to the legendary logo of the Stones and Cuban flags in the Sports City, also flying in many places was the flag of the USA as a symbol of the new times.
The Stones concert concludes a momentous week on the island after the visit of Barack Obama and that of the Tampa Bay Rays baseball team, a product of the thaw in US-Cuba relations begun in December 2014.